There’s the conventional way to land a job on the Hill — multiple internships, campaign work or policy expertise — and then there’s the Kristin Sutton-Lindsay Ingels way.
Sutton, 25, who started in January as one of Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-Mich.) staff assistants, owned and operated a construction cleaning company in her prior life. Her colleague, Lindsay Ingels, 24, promoted in November from staff assistant to executive assistant, tested out the restaurant industry before moving to Washington.
After graduating from Liberty University in 2005, Sutton decided that instead of immediately going to work for someone else, she first wanted to work for herself.
“I kind of had the mindset, ‘Well, what can I do for myself? What business can I start?’ ” she says. She settled on a cleaning company in her hometown of Chesapeake, Va., that specialized in scrubbing down newly built houses and she became familiar with construction projects through her dad’s employment in the field. Her venture required minimal start-up costs.
Sutton’s tall and slight build weathered the demanding manual labor. In “cotton shorts, a T-shirt and tennis shoes,” she would complete tasks like scraping off plaster stuck to the bottom of a bathtub.
“It’s very hard work,” she said. “It’s not like dusting your living room.”
Meanwhile, Ingels decided to plunge into restaurant work after graduating from Texas A&M University in 2006.
She has always loved to cook and even considered enrolling in culinary training after high school. Food is in her blood. Ingels’s grandmother taught her to make tortillas when she was little, and her great-grandfather baked his own sweets in his Belgian pastry shop.
Ingels got a job in an Italian restaurant in Dallas and rotated through several positions there.
Both Sutton and Ingels, however, decided to change their career paths. Sutton’s cleaning company was successful, but she wanted to use the government degree she had earned in college, so she dissolved it and moved to Washington. Ingels, who also studied politics in college, decided restaurant work wasn’t for her.
Ingels now takes care of the congressman’s scheduling and information-technology needs, and Sutton handles correspondence for government oversight and arts policy issues.
Neither woman has entirely given up her past life. Ingels still cooks. She brings banana bread, fruit tarts and other creations into the office, and Sutton is often the beneficiary.
“My goal is to make her fat,” Ingels says of her colleague.
Sutton uses her business-owner knowledge in her work on government oversight.
The future could be yet another wildly different chapter for the duo. Ingels expects to move to Central Asia in a few years with her fiancé to do missionary work for her church. Sutton would like to continue working on legislative issues, though she hopes to have a family someday and stay home with her children.
“Lord willing,” she says. “Otherwise I could be on the Hill in 30 years,” she adds with a chuckle, “still writing those letters.”